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Graduate is suing Cambridge University over ‘re-traumatising, discriminatory’ sexual harassment complaints procedure

She said that Cambridge cares ‘more about PR and their image…than their safety of their students’

C/N: This article contains discussion of sexual harassment and the legal proceedings surrounding it.

Danielle Bradford, a recent Cambridge graduate, is suing the University over their handling of her formal complaint of sexual misconduct, calling it "re-traumatising", "discriminatory", and saying it "doesn't make anyone safer" in last night's interview with Channel 4 News.

Bradford launched a formal complaint regarding alleged sexual misconduct by an individual in a "supervisory role" who, around two years ago, bombarded her with up to 50 messages a day, often laced with sexual innuendo.

Upon initiating a formal complaint about this harassment to the university, Bradford claims she was told she “should think about it [her complaint] very carefully because making a complaint could affect my place in my department…and my career”. This has been denied by Cambridge University.

Bradford said during the disciplinary process she wasn't treated as a complainant. She said: "I was treated as just another witness, not a complainant, so I had no rights and no representation…I had no lawyer. He had a free lawyer."

Despite this, her complaint was upheld by the university, with sanctions of no-contact and an apology letter from her harasser. These sanctions, however, meant that Bradford was banned from certain university sites, and the confidentiality agreement meant she was unable to explain to anyone why she was not permitted to enter these areas.

This confidentiality agreement extended to a ban on telling her friends and family of the misconduct. Bradford even expressed she might be charged with harassment herself for speaking out about her experience to the press.

On Twitter, Bradford emphasised her concern: "He still goes to the same field site with young undergraduate women each year. No restrictions were put on his teaching. I could not tell anyone. Students can’t even make an informed decision on who is teaching them."

Bradford felt the university cares "more about PR and their image…than their safety of their students".

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Bradford expressed further criticism of the sanctions: "If they are not proportional, if nothing is done to protect the people involved and the wider university community, then that process [the complaints procedure] isn't working".

Despite the university having introduced a new anonymous reporting system in 2016 as part of its attempts to crack down on sexual misconduct, Bradford said she was hoping to initiate "concrete changes" through her legal action. Thus far, she has also spoken out through article for Varsity.

Cambridge University has responded to claims, saying: "The University of Cambridge takes the personal safety of its students very seriously and is recognised within the higher education sector for its leading role in tackling harassment and sexual misconduct.

“We cannot comment on specific cases, but where students disclose sexual misconduct and wish action to be taken, information is given about the different reporting options available to them, including complaining to the police, and the potential consequences of these options. The process is designed to take action to investigate whether a student has breached University rules and, if so, to impose proportionate sanctions."

Alongside this, the university added that it "encourages students to be realistic about the reporting processes and their possible outcomes".

Cover image: screenshot from Channel 4 News.